Human Trafficking is happening in your town.
I’ll never forget one morning four summers ago when, as I was getting ready for work, I saw a TV news clip that made my jaw drop: My city was being reported as one of the top places for human trafficking in the United States.
At the time, I thought trafficking, especially child trafficking, only happened in Cambodia. And if someone asked me if and where it was happening in the United States, I’d have likely answered New York or Miami.
But, Sacramento? My little town just a few hours from San Francisco but not as cool or trendy or fantastic as our neighbor to the west? Really? And if so, why? Later I’d find out that our location along two major highways makes it a convenient stop on The Pacific Circuit. (The Pacific Circuit is a human trafficking ring for sexual exploitation on the West Coast, specifically running its victims up and down the Interstate 5, which stretches from Seattle, Washington almost down to the Mexico border.)
Isn’t there something sadly ironic and terribly wrong that the State of California has the 8th wealthiest GDP in the world, and yet our state capitol is host to children being victimized almost in my own backyard?
A few days after I saw the news report, I got involved on a very small scale with Courage House Northern California, a local facility and program for victims of sex trafficking. Courage House does incredible work but after my marketing project was complete I became busy and forgot about the outrage and passion I first felt when faced with this issue of trafficking.
Then, a few months ago, a friend at church spoke about child prostitution happening, literally, a quarter mile from my home. I didn’t want to believe her until I started to pay a little more attention. And once I did, I saw it…I saw them. Victims on street corners, in broad daylight. Of course I became angry all over again.
This should not be happening in my backyard. This should not be happening in America. This should not be happening anywhere.
Please don’t assume slavery, and trafficking, is not happening where you live too. It’s happening in East Sacramento, an area of town full of charming bungalows and nice cars in driveways, and it’s going on in places like Orange County, California on a scale you can’t imagine.
A few weeks ago, my friends Shayne Moore and Kimberly McOwen Yim released their book, Refuse to Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern-Day Slavery. The book is written for those who don’t think slavery is happening today, and it’s also written for those of us who are aware of the issue but believe someone else is going to solve the problem. Their charge? It’s up to women and men like you and me to say, “ENOUGH! Not in my town! Not in my state! Not in my world!”
If you think your law enforcement and politicians are key to solving the problem, think again. “Slavery often comes to light because a member of the public sees something odd and speaks up.” (The Slave Next Door, Bales & Soodalter) And, as Moore and Yim point out, it sometimes takes speaking up again, and again, and again. Louder. With our dollars. With our votes. With our time.
Please, please, please read Refuse to Do Nothing. It’s an easy read offering manageable steps for abolishing modern day slavery, from knowing which businesses not to patronize, to making phone calls to our politicians, to loving on those who have been rescued and praying for those who have not. There’s even a section on re-considering your chocolate choices!
If you’re local, there are many fantastic organizations that could use your help such as Strive2Free and Bridget’s Dream. Or, please talk to me as our church is highly involved with several other ministries that need help. On a larger scale, make sure to check out The Polaris Project and Not For Sale.